Music Producer Phil Spector Dies While Serving Time for Killing LA Actress

Phil Spector (Credit: Shutterstock)

Phil Spector, a legendary music producer and songwriter who was serving time in prison for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, died this weekend.

“Spector, 80, was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement. According to TMZ, Spector was diagnosed with COVID-19 a few weeks ago, and succumbed to complications of the virus.

Corrections officials said the exact cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.

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Born in the Bronx, New York, Spector’s family later moved to California and he attended high school in Los Angeles.

In the 1960s, he become known as the creator of the “wall of sound” music production style. The genre was popularized through such hits as “You’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin'” from the Righteous Brothers and “Be My Baby” from The Ronettes.

Spector also produced the hit songs “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Unchained Melody,” “He’s a Rebel,” and the Beatles’ final album “Let It Be.”

But the Grammy-winning producer had a dark side, prompting whispers that he would wave guns at artists in the recording studio, and was abusive to women.

Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector spent six years married to him. She said in a memoir that he held her prisoner in their mansion, and told her he would kill her if she ever tried to leave. She also claimed he had the house surrounded with barbed wire and guard dogs to make sure she stayed put.

Al Pacino played Spector in the 2013 HBO movie Phil Spector.

Lana Clarkson (Credit: IMDb)
Lana Clarkson was killed in 2003. (Credit: IMDb)

In the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2003, Spector fatally shot 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson.

The two met hours earlier while she was working as a hostess at the House of Blues in West Hollywood. Clarkson agreed to go to Spector’s home and they were driven there in a limousine. An hour later, the driver reported hearing a gunshot as he waited outside.

The actress was found in the foyer of Spector’s mansion. Spector claimed her death was an accidental suicide and that she “kissed the gun.”

He was tried for murder, but the jury in that case deadlocked. He was convicted of second-degree murder at retrial, and sentenced in 2009 to 19 years to life.

Several women testified in the retrial that Spector threatened them with guns, to stop them from leaving his home.

Clarkson was best known for starring in the 1985 Roger Corman film Barbarian Queen, and had small parts in dozens of television shows and movies, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High.